How conservative comic Greg Gutfeld became America’s most popular late-night TV

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(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) In August 2021, Fox News’ “Gutfeld!,” a late-night comedy-talk show hosted by right-wing pundit Greg Gutfeld, overtook “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in overall ratings.

Surprised?

We weren’t.

As media and comedy scholars, we’ve been tracking the recent ascension of right-wing comedy, which has flourished thanks to shifts in media industry economics and political ideologies.


Gutfeld’s success might come as a shock because it punctures long-standing assumptions about what comedy is, who can produce it and who will enjoy it. These prejudices obscure an important truth: Right-wing comedy has become both a viable business strategy and a crucial element of conservative politics.

Yes, “Gutfeld!” is on Fox News, the cable channel known for partisan, right-wing political perspectives and news commentary. But it has all the markers of late-night comedy, too. The opening monologues are filled with Jay Leno-like punchlines that draw laughs from the studio audience, and the interviews with conservative politicians, pundits and other comedians frequently center on “owning the libs” with one-liners.

Then, of course, there are the silly “Saturday Night Live”-like sketches. One recent episode broke from a panel discussion on cancel culture in order to imagine what a politically correct James Bond would look like. In the prerecorded bit, a crudely costumed actor chases down a thief and pulls a banana on him instead of a gun. Then “Bond” heads to a bar to order a latte – a soy latte – instead of a martini. You get the idea.

Regardless of whether or not this comedy is to your taste, it’s working for Gutfeld and his audience.

Hiding in plain sight

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